I find it more than a little strange that there seems to be so little press coverage -- or interest -- in what is happening among our neighbors to the south. If Secretary of State John Kerry hadn't been in attendance, chances are the signing of a momentous peace accord in Colombia would have gone even more unnoticed. The fact is this has been the longest armed conflict in the history of the Western Hemisphere, and even a tentative end to it is a big deal.
This war has killed over a quarter of a million people in its decades-long history. It began as a ten-year period called La Violencia, sparked by the assassination of a populist leader named Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. The conflict eventually evolved into one primarily over communism, with leftist guerrillas forming the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) against the anti-communist, American-backed government.
Some conflicts go on for so long that one generation hands the torch to the next, and eventually no one is sure why they're fighting any more. They just know they are against the enemy, whoever that is. Many FARC soldiers were basically born into the guerrilla army, and fighting against the government is all they've ever known.
Reforming these soldiers on the one hand and reforming the government on the other makes for a challenging road ahead.
Thousands of Colombians dressed in white on the day of the signing of the peace agreement, Sept. 19, 2016, chanting
SÍ A LA PAZ.
Yes to peace. May it be.